The 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti on January 15 is nothing less than DEVASTATING. The Haitian “government” says 40,000 are buried and another 100,000 believed to be dead. Aside from the millions of dollars in property damage, this is a human tragedy on a scale that’s difficult for our minds to grasp.
The United States is and has always been generous with our compassion and our wallets. Donations from the American people are pouring into Red Cross and other relief and charity groups. The U.S. military has flown in hundreds of rescuers and has advance teams and assessment teams on the ground. The Coast Guard has deployed four ships as well as air support for evacuation efforts. The Navy destroyer USS Higgins, with about 320 sailors on board, arrived on Thursday. Thousands more from every branch of the U.S. Armed Services have been deployed and will soon arrive.
Haitians (an estimated 40,000) who are in the United States illegally are allowed to stay, being granted temporary protected status by Homeland Security. Advocates are pushing to relocate thousands of Haitian children orphaned by the earthquake to the United States. “Operation Pierre Pan,” as it’s being called, most likely will be based in Florida.
But Obama has vowed to do more. This morning, I heard him on the radio promising, in addition to $100 million in rescue and relief aid, that America will also help to REBUILD the country.
Not to seem heartless, but the question needs to be asked: Can we afford it? Here are some inconvenient truths about Haiti and the state of America’s finances:
We are in debt up to our eyebrows. America’s national debt is a record-breaking $12 trillion, and expected to nearly double in the next ten years. Unsustainable borrowing has created the largest debt in history. The share of the U.S. national debt held by individuals, corporations, pension funds and foreign governments having risen in 2009 from 41% to 53% of GDP.
Our entitlement program is nearly broke. In May 2009, our government revised estimates for the long-term solvency of Medicare and Social Security, moving up the date when trust funds for the entitlement programs will run out of money. Medicare will be depleted in 2017, two years earlier than estimated. 2008 marked the first time that Medicare ran a deficit, paying out more in benefits than it generates from taxes and other revenue. The picture for Social Security is better. The illusory Social Security trust fund wouldn’t be exhausted until 2037, but that is still four years earlier than once thought.
The United States is the world’s largest foreign-aid donor to Haiti, and as been since 1973, as pointed out to us by Jim Geraghty at National Review online. From 1990 to 2005, the U.S. sent $1.46 billion to Haiti in aid from development assistance and children’s health through the Economic Support Fund, the U.S. food program, the Peace Corps, and foreign military training. In May 2008, the Bush administration sent an additional $25 million in emergency food aid to Haiti, bringing its total emergency contribution to $45 million . Congress provided $100 million for hurricane relief and reconstruction assistance for Haiti and other Caribbean countries in the FY 2009 continuing appropriations resolution. Haiti received an estimated $287 million in regular appropriations for FY 2009.
But all of that aid has had little impact on improving the lives of the Haitian people due to, as explained by Reuters, poor and downright criminal governance, endemic political turmoil, and widespread corruption. Haiti is the third most corrupt country in the world, according to corruption watchdog Transparency International, which compounds the difficulties agencies face in delivering aid in an accountable and transparent way. Power lies in the hands of a few elite, leaving ministries unable to implement policies and divert funds to the local level. Haiti’s civil service is poorly trained and lacks the expertise to manage aid. To put it simply, Haiti’s defective political and human infrastructure makes it highly likely that whatever relief and reconstruction aid that the U. S. provides will be stolen and squandered.
To make matters even worse, whatever government there was on Haiti has disappeared into the rubble of the collapsed presidential building. There is a vacuum of security and government, evidenced in the reports of looters and gangs of men wielding machetes , piling dead bodies as road blocks to hijack trucks carrying relief supplies. All of which means that the U.S. and international relief agencies have few or no local partners to work with.
So, what ought America do? Let’s hear what you think on this OPEN FORUM.